Representatives from 22 destinations joined the “Destination Insights” workshop held during this year’s Adventure Travel World Summit, and it seemed that all agreed on the same three most pressing realities facing their tourism industry:
- Implementing sustainability goals is more important than ever
- Tourism will not thrive unless it is developed with local communities in mind
- Disbursing large visitor numbers to less travelled locations is a priority: moving away from high and low season models, and finding ways to foster the visitor economy for year-round benefits.
More than 60% of the delegates in attendance had 15+ years of industry experience and brought key insights to passionate discussions. Destination representatives shared with each other the sustainability issues they currently face, a need for good governance that stands the test of time without revolving political agendas, and their desire for ongoing collaboration among countries as they battle the negative impacts of climate change and political instability. All seemed hopeful that collectively, they are stronger together.
“Even while we worked in separate groups and presented back to each other, it surprised all of us how similar the challenges were and how the solutions being presented can work across countries – really having a global impact,” said Gustavo Timo, ATTA Vice-President Growth and Product who co-facilitated the three-hour session.
There was also a group consensus on the need for openness and transparency. First, as a way to combat the tendency of greenwashing, but also to avoid “green hushing,” where destinations and tourism operators hesitate to share their sustainable and regenerative tourism plans for fear of not succeeding, being told they are doing too little, or customers worrying if the experience will actually be worse. As a result, many key sustainability initiatives go unreported. By prioritizing transparency and celebrating progress, businesses can collaborate on solutions and continue to strive to do better.
Most destination representatives also shared a goal of moving away from the perception that every country has a high and low season, when travel and tourism experiences are at their best (and busiest) versus having limited options a lower price point with fewer crowds. Some simple solutions included working internally to more intentionally spread out school holidays across a country to reduce pressure points. Others suggested investing in developing experiences that celebrate the cold of winter or can be offered as an alternative when it is too hot during the summer.
Delegates also spoke about corridor strategies, meaningful travel maps, and an increased focus on ‘bleisure’ travel when business trips are combined with leisure and family visits. Notably, these typically fall outside high seasons within countries.
“It was gratifying to hear everyone say they wanted to continue these discussions, to work together, and expand the workshop to include more destinations. Even look to virtual workshops leading into the annual ATWS so that we have time to go even deeper into solutions and case studies when we are all together,” said Gabriella Stowell, ATTA Vice President, Regional Development, who also facilitated the workshop. “There is a real sense that ensuring the tourism industry is a force for good is everyone’s responsibility and we need to work together to prove the positive power of visitor economies if destination development is done with the wealth and wellbeing of the environment, local residents and visitors in mind.”